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Better motoring conditions for motorists in general mean better conditions for those who own and drive individualistic cars. Consequently, we are very interested in a letter concerning the injustice of the present scale of private car taxation, which the Motor Legislation Committee has addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We do not appear to have heard nearly enough of the Motor Legislation Committee, for, although we were aware of its existence, we did not realise, until this letter reached, us, that it was such an influential body. Its secretary is Albert E. Cave, J.P., and its chairman is Lt.-Col. J. Sealy Clarke. Its notepaper hears the names of such influential organisations as the R.A.C., the A.A., the S.M.M.T., the M.A.A.. the R.S.A.C., the B.C. & M.C. Manufacturers and Traders Union, the Institute of British Carriage & Automobile Manufacturers and the Scottish M.T.A. The M.L.C.’s address is Palace Chambers, Bridge Street. London, S.W.1 (WH1 8971). If it wishes to plug away at trying for better motoring conditions there is plenty for it to do. We shall watch what effect this letter has on the Chancellor’s next Budget. We should also like to see a similar letter addressed to the D.P.O.’s on behalf of those whose business suffers on account of insufficient petrol, while that strange creature the “taxi” appears to have multiplied exceedingly with the finish of “basic”, particularly around public-houses, hotels, theatres and railway stations, where the private car on work of national importance dare not venture. This is not only in London, but in every provincial town and country village. The letter which the Motor Legislation Committee addressed to the Chancellor reads as follows:

The Rt. Hon. Sir. H. Kingsley Wood, M.P.,
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Treasury
Whitehall, S.W.1
5th March, 1943

Sir,

Taxation

Private Motor Cars and Motor Cycles

The Motor Legislation Committee, representing the users, manufacturers and retailers of private motor cars and cycles, desires respectfully to bring to your notice the unfortunate and inequitable position in which many owners of these vehicles are placed as a result of the restrictions necessitated by war conditions.

With the drastic rationing of petrol and the urgent need for rigid economy in the use of rubber, private cars and motor cycles are now confined solely to essential business or domestic journeys, a necessary restriction in which the government has had the wholehearted co-operation of the motor organisations. On the other hand, the government has recognised that this use, however limited. of private cars and motorcycles is essential to the war effort, and to the maintenance of the everyday life of the community, as evidenced by the continuance of petrol allowances for these essential journeys.

Moreover, in the case of certain defence services, the government not only sanctioned the use of petrol, but have relieved the owners from the obligation to pay tax and insurance on their vehicles. It is the contention of the Motor Legislation Committee that those private motor vehicles which are nevertheless performing work of equal importance in their use for purposes directly associated with the war effort or for essential needs. Consequently, the owners of these vehicles are justified in asking for the sympathetic reconsideration of their position as motor tax payers.

To explain the position it is necessary shortly to review what has happened in the last four years. The Finance Act, 1939, was of course, introduced some time before the war broke out, and it imposed a heavy additional tax on private cars and motor cycles. The increase was no less than two-thirds of the amount previously payable. The outbreak of war and consequent rationing of petrol introduced a factor which could hardly have been contemplated when this heavy additional taxation was imposed. But the result was that on January 1st, 1940, when the new tax actually became operative, the owners of private motor cars were faced with an increase of sixty-six and two-thirds per cent, reduction in the extent to which their cars could be used.

Since then the situation has developed far more unfavourably from the standpoint of the motor tax payer, first by the reduction of the basic ration, followed by its complete abolition, and finally by the restriction of use to essential purposes. And thus to-day a situation has arisen in which the owner of a private car is required to pay the peace-time taxation increase of sixty-six and two-thirds per cent.,although owing to wartime conditions the use of his car has been reduced to a small fraction of normal use.

It is realised that to seek a reduction in taxation during wartime may appear to be an unusual step and difficult to justify. It is submitted, however, in this instance the injustice is such that it could be no argument merely to say that this is one of those burdens that must be borne because of the war. The real question at issue is whether the tax on the individual is equitable and whether in the circumstances he is being called upon to pay far more than his fair share towards the war effort, and is thereby being unreasonably required to carry a burden which should more properly be distributed over the whole community.

Our committee wishes again to emphasise the fact that the owners of private cars and motor cycles have no desire to avoid the payment of their fair share of any form of taxation which the Government may consider necessary under the present abnormal conditions, and in asking for the fullest and sympathetic consideration of this memorandum it is assumed that it cannot be the considered policy of the Government to continue to impose an inequitable burden of special taxation upon one section of the community in addition to their obligations as ordinary tax payers.

The concrete suggestion made by the Motor Legislation Committee is that in the forthcoming Budget provision should be made for the repeal of the increase in tax of 10s. per unit of horse-power, and the increase in motor cycle taxation as provided by the Finance Act of 1939, thus bringing the tax back to the pre-war level at which it previously stood, and affording some relief to motor owners in respect of the inequitable burden they have born with increasing effect during, the period of the war.

The Committee has put this case, before you in the form of this memorandum, trusting that it contains all that is necessary to convince you of its justice and equity. Should, however, there be other aspects upon which you would like further information the Committee would welcome the opportunity of elaborating its case by means of a deputation.

It should be added that this request is made solely to meet the situation which has arisen. and is without prejudice to any representations which the Comittee may find it necessary to make under post-war conditions.

We are, Sir,

Your obedient servants

J. Sealy Clarke, Chairman

Albt. E. Cave, Secretary

Another instance which may indicate that at last the motorist, through his representative bodies, is beginning to wake up and take care of his interests is this letter, addressed by The Guild of Master Motorists, whose president is Sir Noel Curtis-Bennett, K.C.V.O. to the Press:

March 8th, 1943.

Sir.

The tyre, if Lord Woolton will allow me to say so, is more important than the potato; yet compare our present awareness of the one with our alarming indifference towards the other.

How long, will our existing tyre stock last? What do new sources of rubber supply mean in numbers of tyres available – and when? If the shortage is as grave as it looks would it not be as useful to tell the car owner about it as to blazon his wife the latest incarnation of the potato?

Nobody does tell him.

Somewhere around 70,000 tons of rubber is needed, I am told, to put, tyres on every car and commercial vehicle with four or more wheels. That is one fact; another is that many of the tyres now being made will probably not last for more than a year or so because the rubber shortage has compelled manufacturers to de-grade their tyres.

The supply of this 70,000 tons of rubber is clearly a vital fact in the war situation. Where is it to come from? How does it balance against (1) the volume of rubber now in the country; (2) the tonnage of crude or synthetic rubber on which we may reasonably rely from overseas before the year is out?

The truth is that the tyre situation is critical; for months, indeed, it has been front page news in U.S.A. The sooner British car owners are told more about it officially the quicker will they cooperate in saving the situation, for none respond more willingly to a national call once they have the facts

Yours faithfully,
M. Grahame-White
(Lt.-Comdr., R.N.V.R.)
Hon. Secretary,
The Guild of Master Motorists.